caregiver with resident
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Providers would be wise to help certified nursing assistants advance in their careers, according to an article in Caring for the Ages, a publication of AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

“One promising concept involves career ladders and lattices,” wrote Joanne Kaldy, senior contributor. “As a CNA, ladders enable you to pursue opportunities to move ‘up the ladder’ into other positions, such as licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), or administrator. Alternatively, the career lattice is attractive if you want to continue working as a nurse assistant but want opportunities to expand.”

Kaldy spoke with Claire Enright, executive director of the California Association of Health Facilities’ Quality Care Health Foundation, and Lori Porter, CEO and co-founder of the National Association of Health Care Assistants, about how providers can help CNAs expand their workforce opportunities. CAHF is a state affiliate of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living.

Enright noted that QCHF’s CNA UpSkilling Program is “designed to provide CNAs with the chance to advance through recognized levels of achievement based on their completed micro-certification modules and work experience.” Employers are welcome to use some or all of the program.

Those micro-certifications could be earned by new workers every six months, each one providing them with a certified skill in areas such as dementia care, behavioral health or soft skills like workplace leadership. Those certifications would be transferable between participating employers in California, and each one would come with an incremental wage increase.

“One key aspect of the program,” Enright told the publication, “is that when experienced CNAs are hired, they come in at the level they left their old job and aren’t treated like novices or first-time CNAs.”

Porter noted that additional options exist for expanding a CNA’s career options. She said that after about eight months on the job as a CNA, she was offered the opportunity to get certified as a medication technician.

“I was happy to be able to do this; and I really appreciated being recognized as someone who makes a difference,” she added, “These kinds of opportunities are appealing for CNAs who want to grow and learn.”

According to Porter, NAHCA is “building a career lattice” with nine specialty certifications to give CNAs a pathway to advancement. The specialties include, among others, infection prevention/control, incontinence care and restorative care.

“This isn’t designed to replace nurses handling these specialties,” Porter said. “Instead, CNAs with these certifications can support the nurses and other team members in their efforts. This kind of expertise is invaluable, particularly as nurse shortages continue to plague many organizations.”

CNAs can bring “ladders and lattices” to their employers’ attention, the article concluded, by speaking with administrators, directors of nursing and other employees about the possibilities, and even asking about things such as tuition assistance, mentorships and career pathways. When interviewing for a new job, candidates should ask upfront about opportunities for career growth.